Pocket knives have evolved over the years, and one crucial factor that distinguishes a great knife from an average one is the choice of steel. Knife enthusiasts know that the steel used in the blade plays a significant role in determining its performance and durability. Typical Knife steels can be broken into two categories, Powder Steel and Standard Steel. Powder Steels such as CPM-20CV, CPM-S90V, CPM-S30V, CPM-S35VN, CPM CruWear, CPM-3V are all part of the Crucible Industries' CPM series. These steels are known for their excellent edge retention and increased wear resistance, thanks to the powder metallurgy process used in their production. They are popular among knife enthusiasts who value long-lasting sharpness and durability.
Standard Steels Such as 154CM, D2, 1095, 8Cr13MoV, AUS-8, and 440A are traditional or standard steels commonly used in pocket knives. While they may not offer the same level of edge retention as powder steels, they still possess desirable properties and are often more affordable. These steels are suitable for everyday tasks and can be easily sharpened when necessary. When looking at steels there are four different attributes that make up the character or property of the knife steel. These are:
- Edge Retention: Edge retention refers to the ability of a knife blade to maintain its sharpness over time and after extended use. Steels with good edge retention will retain their sharp edge for longer periods, requiring less frequent sharpening. Higher-quality steels often exhibit superior edge retention due to their composition and hardness.
- Toughness: Toughness relates to a blade's ability to withstand impact, force, and stress without chipping, cracking, or breaking. Toughness is essential for knives used in heavy-duty tasks or environments where the blade may encounter rough conditions. High-toughness steels can endure repeated use and impacts without significant damage.
- Corrosion Resistance: Corrosion resistance refers to a steel's ability to resist rust, oxidation, and corrosion when exposed to moisture, humidity, or other corrosive elements. Steels with good corrosion resistance will be less prone to rusting and require less maintenance. This characteristic is particularly important for knives used in outdoor or wet environments.
- Ease of Sharpening: Ease of sharpening refers to how easily a blade can be sharpened to restore its sharpness. Steels with high ease of sharpening respond well to sharpening methods, allowing users to restore the blade's edge with minimal effort and time. Steels with lower ease of sharpening may require more time, skill, or specialized tools to achieve a sharp edge.
These characteristics play a significant role in determining the overall performance and maintenance requirements of a knife. Balancing these factors according to one's specific needs and preferences helps in selecting the most suitable steel for a particular knife's intended use. Listed below is some common knife steels that you can find here at Uncle Sam’s.
- CPM-20CV: CPM-20CV is a premium powder steel known for its exceptional edge retention, high toughness, and good corrosion resistance. It excels in maintaining sharpness over extended periods, making it suitable for demanding cutting tasks. While it can be more challenging to sharpen compared to some other steels, its overall performance makes it a popular choice for high-end pocket knives.
- CPM-S90V: CPM-S90V is a super premium powder steel that offers outstanding edge retention, ensuring long-lasting sharpness. It boasts exceptional wear resistance, making it suitable for heavy use. However, it tends to be more difficult to sharpen, and its toughness is relatively lower. It is often chosen by enthusiasts who prioritize edge retention over ease of sharpening.
- CPM-S30V: CPM-S30V is a high-end powder steel with a balanced combination of edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance. It provides excellent sharpness retention and good durability for everyday use. While it requires some effort to sharpen, it offers a reliable performance and is widely utilized in quality pocket knives.
- CPM-S35VN: CPM-S35VN is an improved version of CPM-S30V, maintaining similar edge retention and toughness while enhancing corrosion resistance. It is known for its excellent balance among these characteristics, making it a versatile steel for various applications. It offers good edge retention, toughness, and ease of sharpening, making it a popular choice among knife enthusiasts.
- CPM CruWear: CPM CruWear is a tough powder steel designed for heavy-duty tasks. It offers good edge retention and decent corrosion resistance. While it may not provide the same level of edge retention as some premium steels, its high toughness makes it suitable for rugged use. It can be sharpened with relative ease, appealing to users who prioritize durability.
- CPM-3V: CPM-3V is a tough and wear-resistant powder steel known for its excellent durability. It offers good edge retention and moderate corrosion resistance, making it suitable for demanding applications. While it may require some effort to sharpen, it delivers reliable performance and is often favored in hard-use knives.
- 154CM: 154CM is a standard stainless steel that strikes a balance between edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance. It offers good all-around performance for everyday use. It can be sharpened with relative ease and provides satisfactory durability, making it a popular choice for a wide range of pocket knives.
- D2: D2 is a tool steel valued for its exceptional edge retention, making it suitable for heavy cutting tasks. It possesses high toughness but exhibits lower corrosion resistance. Sharpening D2 steel may require more effort due to its hardness, but its long-lasting sharpness makes it desirable for users who prioritize edge retention.
- 1095: 1095 is a high carbon steel known for its excellent toughness and ease of sharpening. While it offers good edge retention, it is more susceptible to corrosion. It is commonly used in outdoor and survival knives, where durability and sharpening convenience are valued.
- 8Cr13MoV: 8Cr13MoV is an affordable stainless steel that offers decent edge retention, toughness, and corrosion resistance. It is relatively easy to sharpen, making it suitable for budget-friendly knives and everyday use.
- AUS-8: AUS-8 is a mid-range stainless steel that provides a balanced combination of edge retention, toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. It offers reliable performance for general-purpose knives and is widely used in various applications.
- 440A: 440A is a lower-end stainless steel that offers basic performance across all aspects. It provides moderate edge retention, toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. It is commonly found in inexpensive knives and serves well for light to moderate cutting tasks.
When choosing a pocket knife, the steel used in the blade is a crucial consideration. The wide array of steels available can be overwhelming, but understanding their characteristics helps make an informed decision. Powder steels like CPM-20CV and CPM-S90V offer exceptional edge retention, while standard steels like 154CM and D2 strike a balance between performance and affordability. Factors such as toughness, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening must align with your specific needs and preferences. Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently choose a pocket knife that suits your requirements, ensuring a reliable companion for all your cutting tasks.